What to do in a power outage at extreme cold temps

Jan 25, 2020
307
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Manitoba, Canada
We are having a power outage right now, due to a wet snow storm. It is currently not very cold (33*F), but it has us thinking about and preparing for when it is real winter weather and this happens. We are in Manitoba, Canada. Our temperatures last winter went down to -36*F, and not just for a short time either. The chickens needed their heat lamps on quite a bit. We don’t have a generator. We have a wood stove in the house.
My current emergency plan is, I would put all 7 chickens into a large dog crate and bring them in the house. Just wondering for how long they would be ok to be crammed in a small space together.
Has anyone had power outages during extremely cold weather?
 

SubArcticFowl

Songster
Sep 14, 2019
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How long does the power typically stay out?

Sudden drops in heat due to power failures is probably the second biggest argument against heating, after fire risk.

If it was a greenhouse I would recommend lots of water as heat storage, but you don't want that humidity in a coop. You could try rock or brick as heat storage, but it has only half the thermal mass.
 

azygous

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Dec 11, 2009
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Are you talking about keeping warm a general adult population of chickens or heating a brooder of vulnerable chicks during a power outage?

As a rule, adult chickens can weather extreme cold by feeding additional carbs so they generate their own heat, and keeping them from cold drafts. Good ventilation should take care of exhausting harmful water vapor from their exhalations at night while roosting.

I've filled gallon jugs with hot water to mitigate extreme cold temps in my coop during power failures, but the difference it makes is really hardly worth the effort.
 

NatJ

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Mar 20, 2017
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My current emergency plan is, I would put all 7 chickens into a large dog crate and bring them in the house.

If you bring them inside for very many days, they will start to get used to the warmer temperatures in the house, and they will have more trouble when you put them back in the coop again.

Our temperatures last winter went down to -36*F, and not just for a short time either.

Have you measured the temperature inside the chicken area? It is probably several degrees warmer than outside, even with no heat at all. And of course you would never have to worry about wind chill if the chickens are out of the wind.

If you do bring them somewhere "warm" during a power outage, I think you should not bring them anywhere warmer than about 35 degrees (Fahrenheit), and it might be better if you kept them closer to 0. That way there is not much shock from coming into the warmth and later going back out into the cold.

The chickens needed their heat lamps on quite a bit.
How warm were you trying to keep them?

We don’t have a generator. We have a wood stove in the house.
You should be able to heat water if you need to.

So you can make sure they have enough liquid water to drink, and you can also make them a warm mash (just add warm or hot water to a dish of their normal chicken food, then make sure it isn't hot enough to burn them.) That should encourage them to eat more than usual, so they will have the calories they need to help keep themselves warm.

My current emergency plan is, I would put all 7 chickens into a large dog crate and bring them in the house. Just wondering for how long they would be ok to be crammed in a small space together.
Even if you feel the need to do this at night, I would probably put them back in their coop during the day. They can all huddle up and night and sleep, but daytime is when they need space to move around. Moving around also generates heat, so that helps keep them warmer, and of course daytime also tends to be warmer than nighttime.

Even putting them in the coop for half of each day (afternoon) would be better than keeping them crowded all day long, but I think putting them outside all day would be better yet.

Does their coop have natural light? Glass windows can be a great thing in northern areas in the winter. (They also need ventilation, and some light usually comes in through any form of ventilation, but windows are great for letting in a lot more light.)
 
Jan 25, 2020
307
936
206
Manitoba, Canada
Are you talking about keeping warm a general adult population of chickens or heating a brooder of vulnerable chicks during a power outage?

As a rule, adult chickens can weather extreme cold by feeding additional carbs so they generate their own heat, and keeping them from cold drafts. Good ventilation should take care of exhausting harmful water vapor from their exhalations at night while roosting.

I've filled gallon jugs with hot water to mitigate extreme cold temps in my coop during power failures, but the difference it makes is really hardly worth the effort.
I am just talking about adult chickens.
They have movd to their new coop since last winter. It is an insulated coop within an insulated garage. It has some passive ventilation to the garage side, an exhaust fan (that would be off during outages), and a large window that can be opened.
 

NatJ

Free Ranging
Mar 20, 2017
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It is an insulated coop within an insulated garage.
You should definitely measure the actual temperature inside that coop before you add any heat this winter. I'm guessing they will not need any extra heat.

If the chickens do not have heat in normal times, then they will also be fine during a power outage, and you will not have to worry about that.
 
Jan 25, 2020
307
936
206
Manitoba, Canada
If you bring them inside for very many days, they will start to get used to the warmer temperatures in the house, and they will have more trouble when you put them back in the coop again.



Have you measured the temperature inside the chicken area? It is probably several degrees warmer than outside, even with no heat at all. And of course you would never have to worry about wind chill if the chickens are out of the wind.

If you do bring them somewhere "warm" during a power outage, I think you should not bring them anywhere warmer than about 35 degrees (Fahrenheit), and it might be better if you kept them closer to 0. That way there is not much shock from coming into the warmth and later going back out into the cold.


How warm were you trying to keep them?


You should be able to heat water if you need to.

So you can make sure they have enough liquid water to drink, and you can also make them a warm mash (just add warm or hot water to a dish of their normal chicken food, then make sure it isn't hot enough to burn them.) That should encourage them to eat more than usual, so they will have the calories they need to help keep themselves warm.


Even if you feel the need to do this at night, I would probably put them back in their coop during the day. They can all huddle up and night and sleep, but daytime is when they need space to move around. Moving around also generates heat, so that helps keep them warmer, and of course daytime also tends to be warmer than nighttime.

Even putting them in the coop for half of each day (afternoon) would be better than keeping them crowded all day long, but I think putting them outside all day would be better yet.

Does their coop have natural light? Glass windows can be a great thing in northern areas in the winter. (They also need ventilation, and some light usually comes in through any form of ventilation, but windows are great for letting in a lot more light.)
All very good points!
Last winter they were in a section of the goat barn. It was not much warmer than the outside temperature. I tried to keep them at 0 degrees F with the heat lamps. The new coop is already proving that it is staying warmer than the barn.
It has a large window, and during extreme cold spells it is usually sunny in the daytime.
Water is not the problem, I have it in a thermal bucket for them.
Your reply is helping me shape my plan. I would bring them into our boathouse at night (not woodstove there) and back into their coop in the day.
 

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